Alumni Update

Shaharzade Ebrahimi headshotShaharzade "Shae" Ebrahimi

Shaharzade "Shae" Ebrahimi is a 2020 graduate of the JMSW Program who recently began work as a family therapist with the Family Tree Program in Denton, Texas.  The Family Tree Program provides family counseling at no cost to families in Denton and Dallas Counseling.  Their services are specifically geared toward families who are experiencing significant change in their life circumstances, school issues, behavioral issues, communication breakdowns, grief, and general family struggles. In this role, Shaharzade will not only be providing family counseling services to her clients at the Family Tree Program but will also be able to participate in clinical supervision and work toward her Licensed Clinical Social Worker licensure.

The JMSW Program wishes Shaharzade many congratulations and the best of luck in her position serving vulnerable families in Denton County!

Tracy Locke badge photoTracy Locke

Tracy Locke is a May 2020 graduate of the TWU-UNT Joint Master of Social Work Program.  Shortly after graduation and obtaining her LMSW license, Tracy went to work for Angel Hands Hospice, as a hospice social worker.  Angel Hands is a local agency that was started by a group of hospice professionals who brought their collective experience and expertise together in an effort to provide the best possible care to hospice patients and their families.  Less than a year later, on March 1st, 2021, Tracy was promoted to the Director of Psychosocial Services for Angel Hands Hospice.

Tracy will now be overseeing all social workers, chaplains, and volunteer services for the agency, as well as continuing to maintain an active caseload of clients that she will serve. In this new role, Tracy will serve as a source of support and guidance for those she will supervise and assist with coordination of psychosocial care.  In addition, she will provide direction for especially challenging clients and their families, help work through potential ethical dilemmas with the team, look closely at policies and procedures (making any needed changes or implementing new policies), and fine-tune processes as the company continues to grow and serve their community.

Congratulations Tracy on your promotion!  The JMSW Program is so proud of the accomplishments you've made since graduating from our program!

JMSW student Kamden Ndawula receives 2020 Ima Hogg Scholarship


Each year, the Hogg Foundation awards Ima Hogg Scholarships to graduate social work students who have committed to joining the mental health workforce.

An investment in their post-graduate careers is an investment in improving the quality of mental health services across Texas, where the mental health workforce is in critical condition. Reports from 2015 revealed that more than 70 percent of counties across the state didn’t have a single psychiatrist in residence, leaving 3 million Texans without access to psychiatric services.

This year, 16 graduate social work students from across Texas received scholarships of $5,000 each. Nominated by the heads of their social work programs, these students were chosen for their potential to bring renewed energy to the Texas mental health workforce.

“My goal is to advocate for having trauma-informed staff within schools, provide therapeutic services for school-age students, and increase access to mental health education and resources to be more inclusive in the school setting,” said Ndawula.

Statement from JMSW Program regarding recent events and social justice


Dear Students:

We are writing to you in response to the violence and the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. It would seem that during a hard-hitting global pandemic that we would all be kinder, gentler, and more supportive of one another as we are all in this together. We recognize the array of emotions that many of you may be feeling right now. We are also utterly disturbed, disgusted, and outraged by not only the recent events, but in the overall treatment of people of color and other minority groups in this country. Let us acknowledge that many have watched the state of these events and fear for their safety and that of their loved ones. This emotion can be translated into energy and passion to do something. Not just because you are a human being, but because you are future social workers. As a social work community dedicated to the mission of social change and enhance human well-being and to empower people who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty, we have a shared responsibility to promote and advance racial and social justice. As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist, none of us can truly rest. Our actions matter.  Our fight is for the dissolution of the powers, policies, and practices that perpetuate racism. Though there is nothing we can do to bring back the lives of those we lost, we can certainly work to prevent even one more lost life. We ask you to get involved in initiatives that advance racial and social justice in your community. Below is a list of things that you can do to get involved and effect change.

  • Get involved in your community
  • Educate yourself and others around you about racism and discrimination
  • Provide emotional support to your fellow students
  • Donate to and join social action and grass-roots groups
  • Boycott businesses that do not promote social justice and equality.
  • Create your own social action group
  • Write your city councilmen and women, mayors, and state legislators. Advocate for specific legislation related to policy brutality.
  • Peacefully march and protest: The march is a historical weapon that has been used to expose injustice. There is power in numbers and unity!
  • Vote! Make your vote count!

We stand with you, the community, and the world against racism, racial profiling, police brutality, and injustice. In the words of Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  

Please don’t give up! It is up to us to unite and stand together in solidarity for racial justice and for the respect of every individual’s worth and dignity.  We must remain dedicated to the movement, not the moment. It is in all of our hands to create a better world for all who live in it. We also encourage you to remain hopeful that systematic change will come and that justice, equality, and unity will prevail.


JMSW Program

Links for additional resources

JMSW Class of 2020 Hooding Ceremony

3 virtual hooding ceremonies taking place via Zoom
The 2020 JMSW Hooding Ceremony taking place over Zoom on May 15.


The JMSW Program hosted its Hooding Ceremony for the 2nd cohort of MSW students, a little differently than originally planned this year. As it has changed so many other things in our lives this year, COVID-19 and the physical distancing requirements put in place to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of it, meant that an in-person hooding ceremony would not be possible. 

However, that did not mean that a celebration couldn’t happen, or that the accomplishment was any less worthy of celebration. Therefore on May 15, 2020, at 6:00 pm, faculty, staff, adjuncts, graduates, friends, family, and other supports, gathered on Zoom to recognize the accomplishments of the JMSW program’s second graduating cohort. 

These photos show just a portion of the over 120 individual accounts that were logged into Zoom to celebrate the JMSW Class of 2020!  We are so proud of our students and their resiliency to receive their MSW in the middle of a global pandemic!  We can’t wait to see what they will do next!  Congratulations JMSW Class of 2020!

Graduating JMSW Students advocate for expedited licensing processes for Texas Social Workers

Maryssa Vasquez
Maryssa Vasquez


Two soon-to-be MSW graduates, Maryssa Vasquez & Cassandra Leissler, have volunteered to serve on a Licensing Task Force through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)/Texas Chapter.  Both students are members of NASW, and are passionate about advocating to improve licensing processes in Texas, especially in light of the current COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners was not prepared for shelter-in-place orders and employees to process applications.  Add to that, an already existing backlog of applications and delays in processing times for those seeking social work licensure in Texas (which is required in order to be called a Social Worker in Texas), and graduates are currently facing months or more before they can sit for the licensure exams currently required to obtain licensure.

This task force is working to appeal to Governor Abbott, to amend current licensing regulations, allowing anyone with a completed application, to be granted Temporary licensure for up to 12 months while waiting to sit for the exam. 

Cassandra Leissler
Cassandra Leissler

Maryssa shared that "Joining the NASW licensing task force meant a lot to me, specifically due to the uncertain times we are living in. Feeling as if I could give back to the profession that has given me so much purpose has been extremely rewarding!"

Cassandra also commented, "I chose to serve on the NASW Licensing Committee because Texas needs social work professionals to lead and serve during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Many social work jobs in the state require licensure and hundreds of qualified new graduates are being forced to delay employment and service to their communities because of severe licensing and testing delays. I feel honored to advocate on behalf of all social work professionals who are ready to enter the field and the communities who need their support."

Dr. Felderhoff also volunteered to serve on this committee, not knowing that two of the JMSW students had already done so.  The JMSW Program is so proud of the commitment of our students to advocate for social workers in Texas!

JMSW student Reighley Baugh
Reighley Baugh

JMSW Student Reighley Baugh invited to present research at international conference


We are excited to announce that JMSW student Reighley Baugh has been invited to present her research at the 5th International Conference on Practice Research in Melbourne, Australia. The conference will take place May 25-27, 2020. Her research presentation is titled, "Minimizing The Risk:Targeting Effective Interventions to Reduce Human Trafficking Recidivism." This is not the first international conference to accept Reighley's research. In July 2019, Reighley and her mentor, Dr. Nila Ricks, presented a research paper at the 9th International Conference on Social Work and Mental Health held in York, United Kingdom. She also previously had an opinion editorial on Foster Care-to-Prison Pipeline published in the Texas Tribune. We are extremely excited for Reighley and proud of her accomplishments. 

Food for thought: It's time to define what 'good' means in our industry


When it comes to design work in the social sector, we often hear debates over terms, categories, and taxonomies: Should we call it social design? What about design for social innovation? Or how about the nebulous borders around terms like participatory design, collective impact, and co-design? It’s enough to make one’s head spin. But while these debates are raging on, we’re missing the answer to a much, much more important question. We’re missing a shared definition for what good looks like.

The question: What is a shared definition for “social good” in our profession? Read the full article>>

TWU/UNT participate in 2019 NASW-TX


Woman presenting at NASW TX Conference
UNT Professor Dr. Hadidja Nyiransekuye presenting on refugee mental health.

JMSW Faculty and students participated at the 2019 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Texas conference in Galveston, TX. Dr. Hadidja Nyiransekuya, Dr. Sarah Oliphant and Dr. Dhrubodhi Mukherjee presented a paper on “Refugee Mental Health.”  JMSW students Emily Sibley, Shaharzade Ebrahimi and Sierra Plentl also volunteered at the conference.

TWU and UNT students and faculty at NASW TX 2019.
TWU and UNT JMSW students and faculty at NASW TX 2019.

Dr. Felderhoff with current and past NASW/TX Leaderhsip
Dr. Felderhoff with current and past NASW/TX Leadership, left to right: Missy Rainey-Nivens, Kathy Campbell, second Vice President of Budget and Planning, Seth Mobilio, Pat Gleason-Wynn, Mike Gianotti, (behind Dr. Felderhoff:) Lynn Jackson, Jennifer Barton and Allison Peeler.

Faculty and students at dinner during NASW/TX
Back row: Seth Mobilio, Missy Rainey-Nivens, Mike Gianotti, Dave Wynn, Rick Hansen
Front Row: Brandi Felderhoff, Kirsten Reuter, Melissa Milliorn, Pat Gleason-Wynn, Vicki Hansen

Social Work Advocacy Day at the Texas State Capitol


Students and faculty outside of the Texas State Capitol building

JMSW students participated in Social Work Advocacy Day at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The National Association of Social Work, Texas Chapter hosted the day with social work professionals and students from around the state in attendance. The day’s agenda included an Advocacy Panel & Immigration Session, Rally with Transgender Education Network of Texas, and a REAL symposium on race. 

Our JMSW students also met one-on-one with legislators to advocate for or against current bills that they have been researching and following all semester in their Advanced Social Policy course. Topics they addressed included mental health in public schools, human trafficking, asylum protection, and eating disorder education in public schools.


Students at the Social Work Advocacy day in Austin, TX

Students at the Social Work Advocacy day in Austin, TX